The Jewish Theological Seminary made it official today that Prof. Arnold Eisen of Stanford University would become the next chancellor of the Seminary (or at least “Chancellor Designate” as he won’t officially take office for over a year) replacing Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. Eisen will be the second chancellor of JTS who is not a rabbi (Cyrus Adler was the first).
I happen to think that the choice of Prof. Eisen as chancellor is a good one as I do not think the position needs to be held by a rabbi or that the chancellorship means being the mara d’atra (chief rabbi and legal authority) for the Conservative Movement. In fact, I also do not think the chancellor of the Seminary has to be the “titular head of the movement” as Chancellor Schorsch was regarded. The chancellor is the head of the faculty of JTS, which is just one of the institutions in the Conservative Movement.
There are many well respected rabbis in the Conservative Movement who are already in significant leadership positions. These visionaries and figureheads include Rabbi Bill Lebeau (JTS Rabbinical School Dean in New York), Rabbi Brad Artson (Dean of the Rabbinical School at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles), and Rabbi David Golinkin (President of Machon Schechter in Jerusalem).
Here’s part of the text from the JTA.org. See the complete article here.
Though not a rabbi, Eisen is known as a leading figure in Jewish studies. He has devoted much of his research to American Jewry, focusing on the transformation of Judaism in the modern West, and is the author of “Rethinking Modern Judaism,” among other books.
Eisen will take the reins as Conservative Judaism faces a series of challenges and questions, including dwindling numbers and a battle over the place of gays and lesbians in the movement.
In his first interview with U.S. Jewish media after being chosen as chancellor, Eisen told JTA he favors allowing gays and lesbians to become rabbis.